UCLA and Pac-10 Basketball: The Home Stretch

Derek HartCorrespondent IMarch 5, 2009

The biggest thing I can say about my UCLA Bruins basketball team this season is that they have been like a Phoenix.

Twice now they have been given up for dead after disastrous losses, and twice they have risen from the ashes, thanks to the Stanford Cardinal and the California Golden Bears. Thank God for those Bay Area schools!

Indeed, after Washington State's Taylor Rochestie and his 33 points single-handedly beat the Bruins in Pauley Pavilion, UCLA stepped up big time in Palo Alto and especially Berkeley, beating a ranked Bears team that was tied with them in the Pac-10 standings and favored in that game. 

Now with an 11-5 conference record, 22-7 overall, the Bruins just need to do one thing: not let up.

With 8-20 Oregon and much-improved Oregon State, coached by President Obama's brother-in-law, coming to Westwood for the final two games of the regular season, a sweep by UCLA, combined with winning at least two games in the upcoming Pac-10 Tournament, would solidify the Bruins' chances of getting at least a No. 4 seed in the Big Dance.

As such, here's how I see the Pac-10 schools as far as the NCAA Tournament:


UCLA, Washington (kudos to those Huskies for a great season, finishing in first place), Arizona State, and Cal.


Arizona and USC.

Arizona looked good for the Big Dance before stumbling against the Washington schools last weekend. Now they have to do what the Bruins did—sweep Stanford and Cal—and win at least one game in the conference tourney in order to hear their name called on Selection Sunday.

And USC? Those Trojans are in trouble. 'SC fans need to understand that this is not football.

After going 1-6 this past month, the Trojans need to not only sweep the Oregons in the Galen Center this weekend, they need to win at least two games in the Pac-10 Tournament being held up the street from their campus at the Staples Center—in order for them to have a chance at hearing their name called on CBS's selection show. Otherwise, much to the delight of Bruin Nation, I'll have three letters for them: NIT.

There is one team that, if I were a Pac-10 coach, I would not want to face: Washington State.

With that Rochestie hitting 30-foot bombs for them, those Cougars from the Palouse have been Davids slaying Goliaths these past two weeks.  They beat UCLA in Westwood and Arizona State on a last-second bomb from you-know-who last weekend.

This is the type of team that can make a lot of noise in a tournament situation, because they're hot and they have nothing to lose. I don't think they'll win the Pac-10 Tournament, but you never know. They are VERY capable of pulling off some upsets.

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they beat their enemies, the Huskies, in Seattle this Saturday—like I said, they have nothing to lose. 

There is one thing I know for sure: These next few weeks will be interesting in Pac-10 basketball.

VERY interesting.